Guest Post + GIVEAWAY with Shaila Patel: Avoiding the Traps in Writing Romance

Hello! I am so glad Spring Break is here! Woot woot! I am currently a little under the weather right now, but I am so glad I have a wonderful author here on our blog today. I met Shaila Patel a couple of weeks ago at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival, and it was so awesome to meet her! She is one of the nicest author I’ve ever talked with, and I’ve loved our little chats. I loved her debut book Soulmated, and she is giving away an e-copy of her book along with some swag. The swag is great; I have some at home and I love them! Hope you enjoy!

Two souls. One Fate. soulmated_shailapatel_1600x2400_seriestitle

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?

 

a-shailaAbout the Author

As an unabashed lover of all things happily-ever-after, Shaila Patel’s younger self would finish reading her copy of Cinderella and fling it across the room because it didn’t mention what happened next. Now she writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues. A member of the Romance Writers of America, she’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. Soulmated is her debut novel and the winner of the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards for Young Adult. She loves books, craft beer, tea, and cozy window seats—but she’ll read anywhere. You might find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red light or online gushing about her favorite books.

Publisher Information:Month 9 Books

Represented by: Agent Amanda Leuck of Spencerhill Associates


A Shaila

Avoiding the Traps in Writing Romance

Hi Kester! Thank you for having me here today to talk about avoiding clichés and stereotypes in writing romance.

As a romance writer and a huge fan of romance novels, I can say with certainty that there are no original tropes. A trope is a scenario or plot device, and in love stories they form the foundation on which the romance is built. Examples include the girl falling in love with her brother’s best friend (or vice versa), or the rich, spoiled hero who falls for the one girl who hates him, or even the classic love triangle where a heroine has to choose between two boyfriends.

All romances are based on a trope, yet despite the predictability, we fall in love with a particularly romance novel because it doesn’t feel like the same old story. And that’s probably because it avoided using clichés and stereotypes that usually leave us uninspired and bored. Imagine eating steamed broccoli, or steamed carrots, or steamed cauliflower every night at dinner. Sure, they’re different vegetables, but having them prepared the same way doesn’t get you excited about sitting down to dinner. The same thing can happen in writing.

So how do you avoid the blahs in writing a romance?

Start by subverting the reader’s expectations. Let’s take the example of Beauty and the Beast. Why not make the beast the heroine instead of the hero? Why not move the story into the present day? Or what about making the beast a Hollywood A-list celebrity instead of a recluse? Now you’d have a story that would spark the imagination and make you forget that you already know what it’s all about.

Once you’ve subverted the reader’s expectations of the trope being used, create characters that can’t be contained on the pages of your book. It’s inevitable that you’ll use a few clichés and stereotypes, but don’t rely on them. Instead, captivate your readers with images and characterizations that force them to spin their expectations until they’re dizzy.

Here are three ways you can do that.

First, create fresh character descriptions. By their very nature, clichés and stereotypes don’t inspire us to think. They’re like shortcuts that are overused and instantly tell us what thought, description, or idea is being conveyed. If I were to describe a character’s hair as “golden locks,” you’d know I was describing blond hair. But does it paint a picture in your mind? Not really. How about this: “hair like garlands of pale yellow primroses.” Paints a different picture, doesn’t it?

Second, develop your characters by adding depth. Create an interesting backstory and personality flaws that—again—subvert the reader’s expectations. Taking the trope I mentioned above (the rich, spoiled boy who falls for the girl who hates him), maybe his backstory is that he was poor as a child. Or maybe he’s struggling with turning his parents in for their illegal activities. Why not make him insecure to counter his confidence? Or even embarrassed by a learning disability? There’s nothing more ho-hum than a one-dimensional, perfect character. It leads writers to fall back on expected character-types that you’d find for specific romance tropes, but worse, it makes the story predictable.

Third, have the expected character-type change and grow. If the hero or heroine doesn’t, you run the risk of having flat characters that do nothing to jazz up your trope. Do you have a brooding male hero? Give him a quirky hobby like doing magic tricks. With an interesting backstory, the reader would know why the hero loves the sleight of hand involved with card tricks, and by the end of the story, it could be part of the reason he grows and changes. Do you have a shy heroine? Give her an unexpected cause to champion and allow it to be one of the reasons she transforms by the end of the story. Parallel the hero and heroine’s growth, and intersect them when you need to advance the romantic plot. The goal is to have readers cheering for the hero and heroine, both as individuals and as a couple—all so that they won’t be thinking how predictable the trope is.

Using a romance trope in the same way that it’s always been used is like an uninspiring cliché. It doesn’t create a fresh image in our minds. It isn’t engaging. And if you can’t engage a reader, they’ll likely forget what they read.

And who would want to read a book like that?


Thank you so much, Shaila, for coming onto our blog! I’m so glad to have you guest post for us!

If you want to check out Shaila’s social media pages or buy Soulmated, check out the links below!

Contact Links:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Buy Links for Soulmated:

Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Books-a-Million| Google Play | Indiebound | Kobo


Now onto the giveaway! Woo hoo! I think you should enter this giveaway because I loved Soulmated A LOT! I mean A LOT! It was amazing! You’ll really enjoy it!

Just a few quick rules:

1) This is open to ALL International residents. For US Residents, you will get more swag than Int’l residents because of postage.

2) You must be truthful when entering!

3) You must be 18 years or older or have parental permission.

4) Winner must respond within 48 hours of me notifying him or her.

Here’s the Giveaway Link!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I wish you the best! Hope you have fun! 🙂

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

 

 

 

 

 

The Dwelling of Ekhidna Release Day Celebration: Guest Post with Lauren Jankowski

Hi guys! As a Snowy Wings Publishing Snow Angel, I am happy to celebrate with you the release of Lauren Jankowski’s The Dwelling of Ekhidna! To celebrate it, I am happy to host Lauren here on how she built the Meadows, the Home of the Guardians! Enjoy!

 

The Dwelling of Ekhidna (Book Five of The Shape Shifter Chronicles) by Lauren Jankowski

thedwellingofekhidna-ebook_-683x1024The home of the guardians, the Meadows, has always been a place of peace and safety, untouched by the ongoing war against the Grenich Corporation. But that could only last so long.

During the guardians’ autumn celebration, a bomb goes off, shattering the Meadows tranquility. In the aftermath of a tragedy, a deadly virus is released that afflicts only healers. The only cure to the virus is hidden in the Seelie Court, in a location that only one knows: Eris, a legendary trickster, locked away in the dungeons of the Pearl Castle for her crimes against the peoples of Earth. When the Four are forced into a temporary alliance with the unpredictable Eris, their journey becomes more perilous than anyone expected.

 

Lauren Jankowskilauren-jankowski-square

Lauren Jankowski has been an avid reader for most of her life. She holds a B.A. in Women and Genders Studies from Beloit College. She has been writing fiction since high school, when she noticed a lack of strong women in the popular genre books. Also known for her activism for asexual visibility, she has taught a course on writing asexual characters for the “Writing the Others” series. She founded Asexual Artists, is a member of Pack of Aces, and is an outspoken feminist. When she’s not writing or researching, she enjoys reading (particularly anything relating to ancient myths) or playing with her pets.

Through Snowy Wings Publishing, Lauren is the author of The Shape Shifter Chronicles (The Dwelling of Ekhidna, 2017; and to be re-released through SWP in 2017, Sere From the Green, Through Storm and Night, From the Ashes and Haunted by the Keres), a NA urban fantasy series drawing from ancient mythology.

Website  |  Goodreads  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Tumblr

 

 

Building the Meadows, the Home of the Guardians

A major part of fantasy is creating new and fascinating worlds for readers to explore and lose themselves in. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of speculative fiction, but it can also be maddening. This was something I learned early on when I first started writing my series, The Shape Shifter Chronicles.

In the series, there’s a race of beings called the Guardians. Me, being the massive myth nerd I am, I knew I wanted to draw from various mythologies to create the Guardians, who are very similar to deities you come across in different myths. They’re not quite as vengeful and much, much more hands off than the gods we all know and love. However, I knew they needed to be in their own world. They simply wouldn’t go walking about Earth: they love and protect the Earth, but it isn’t their home.

The Meadows proved to be one of the most difficult settings to write. Located in its own sort of dimension, the Meadows can only be reached by Appearing (a skill possessed by all guardians and a few protector families). That took care of the whole, “Why don’t the villains just attack the guardians” quandary I ran into at first.

The guardians exist to make sure everything on Earth runs smoothly (including emotions: there are emotion guardians to make sure no emotion gets completely out of control), so the two places are closely linked. Knowing this, I made Earth kind of a baseline for things like physics in the Meadows. The environments are quite similar, though there’s no pollution in the Meadows because they don’t use a lot of the technology that Earth requires.

When I first started writing about the Meadows, I had a rough idea of what their world looked like (and that was how I came up with the name) and then I started thinking about the various lands there needed to be: the Royals (land of the head guardians, but also the healers, the librarians, and the emotion guardians), Water (all bodies of water), Nature (nature and the weather. The gem guardians caves would be there and the guardian smiths), Day, Night, and Fire. Then I started thinking about how guardians would communicate with each other (through messengers, who delivered handwritten notes because they took a vow of silence). But how would a fire guardian visit a water guardian? The first guardians made a trail that winds throughout all the lands, the Argentine Path, which guardians can safely travel on and avoid contact with elements they prefer not to physically touch (what a guardian watches over is part of their identity, so fire guardians tend to be uneasy near water). I would basically come up with a question and then figure out an answer to it, but not always an obvious one. When figuring out solutions, I had to think like a guardian.

What gave me the most trouble, and continues to give me a lot of trouble, is the issue of time. Because the Meadows is slightly older than the Earth, but there was a cataclysmic event in their history that makes their generations slightly off. When I’m not writing my series, I’m often working on a massive project that I have been working on for as long as I’ve been writing novels: a complete history of the Meadows, both told from the shape shifters point of view and the guardians. If I ever wind up publishing it, it will likely be split because, like all cultures, the story differs depending on who tells it.

This history project is what actually helps keep me on track and helps me build the world that is the Meadows (as well as the other worlds that are revealed in book four). Storytelling is important to cultures: how did we come into being? Why are we here? Even beings as powerful as the guardians ask these questions. And I think that’s what fascinates me about them: they’re immortal, possess great power, and yet they still cherish stories. Even the mythical beings have myths and stories.

The Meadows is a land of nature and one of stories. The guardians live in a peaceful world, though they do still have personal squabbles and tiffs. The one thing they all have in common is they recognize the power of stories. Their culture is one built on stories passed down from generation to generation.

There’s a lot of advice about world building out there, much of it worth a read. My best advice is look at the stories your characters tell. Why do they tell those stories? How do they tell those stories? What do those stories say about your characters and cultures they are part of? Look up old fairytales and myths, study them, figure out what they’re actually saying about the world. Then try creating a mythos for the characters you’re writing. You’d be very surprised just how much insight you get about your characters and the world they inhabit.

 

Thank you for guest posting for us, Lauren! And congrats on your newest book! Go order Lauren’s newest book, The Dwelling of Ekhidna, here on Smashwords!